Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Great Smokies Traverse (SCAR FKT)

For several years I’ve wanted to run a traverse of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Appalachian Trail, (AT), bisects the park and creates a footpath which follows the North Carolina / Tennessee border along the high ridges of the range.  The 72 mile route runs from the park’s southwest corner to or from the northeast corner depending on direction of travel, and only has one road crossing near the 41 mile point.

The following is a description of the SCAR route from Peter Bakwin’s Fastest Known Time website, (http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/128/scar-tn-nc)  which tracks speed records across the country.

The Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (SCAR) is an unofficial 70+ mile traverse of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the Appalachian Trail, starting at Fontana Dam and going to Davenport Gap. The total elevation gain is 18,660', 12,800' in first 40 miles and 5860' in last 30 miles. On course aid and bail-out is only possible at 40 miles at Newfound Gap Road, and maybe not even there. All food and gear must be carried and water must be pulled from streams. The trail is technical, and there are a lot of steep climbs and descents all on singletrack.

This route rivals even the most mountainous ultramarathons in elevation gain. During the first 50 miles the elevation climbed per mile averages approximately 300’ per mile. Colorado's Hardrock 100 for instance, has 330’/mile. Virginia’s Grindstone 100 has 240’/mile. California’s Western States Endurance Run has 180’/mile. For non-runners, this means that for every mile you run, you must climb the equivalent of a 30 story building.

The course is challenging not only due to the elevation gain, but also because of the lack of road crossing to get support or water. Runners must descend from the actual route/trail and add in off-route mileage to find springs from which to pull water, then they must climb back up to the route/trail which straddles the highest ridge of the Smokies crest and proceed on their way.

I started at Fontana Dam at 6:00am sharp and the sun provided just enough light to run without the aid of headlamp. If my plan went according to schedule, I would finish before 8:50pm and not need a headlamp for the duration of the venture. The current speed record, or, Fastest Known Time (FKT) is held by David Worth at a time of 14 hours and 50 minutes, hence the 8:50pm finish time goal.

The route technically begins (or ends depending on direction of travel) at the south end of the Fontana Dam.


A one mile road run after the dam leads the way to the geographical border of the park, and the up the mountainside to the trail-head, where the real climbing begins.

I paced myself on the first ascent and didn’t worry about speed. My main focus was to set the rhythm of the day and make sure I kept a disciplined intake of nutrition every 20 or 30 minutes. Adequate hydration was also an important variable to success since temps started off warm and the high was forecast to be in the upper 80’s. Water availability was not only scarce, but time consuming to acquire. I reached Mollies Ridge shelter 11 miles in, a little over 2 hours into the run which was a tad bit faster than record pace. I put that out of mind… It was however nice to know I had a small buffer, especially since I knew the tail end of the run contained nearly 14 miles of downhill. My legs and energy didn’t feel 100% but I was enjoying a day in the mountains and what the body lacked, the mind eagerly made up for in the early miles.

The climbing didn’t abate after Mollies Ridge. I assumed the grade would lessen from steep to rolling once on the crest but it never did. The occasional downhills were really nice to stretch out the legs, but they were steep and rocky. Running down the descents at full speed was mildly sketchy. I almost fell a few times and constantly had to balance beating up my legs with the free speed the gravity afforded. While thru-hiking the AT, I remembered a lot of smaller ups and downs of the Smokies, and my memory served me correctly. The climbs weren’t particularly huge. They were just relentless and incessant. 500’ here, 1000’ there… it adds up! I tried to force a slow run on the milder grades and allowed power-hiking occasionally on the steepest grades.

I got water at AT shelters that were close to the trail. They typically had springs that I was already familiar with from previous ventures and I knew they were only .2 miles downhill usually. They all flowed well and got me what I needed! To save time I didn’t bring a filter and instead I used tablets to purify my water. The downside of this meant that I didn’t get to drink for 30 minutes after I refilled my 1.5 liter water bladder while the tablets worked their magic. It was worth it to not have to pump or treat the water in more time consuming methods.

The run over Thunderhead Mountain was as beautiful as it always is…

I should’ve refilled water at Double Spring shelter prior to climbing Clingmans Dome. I ran out of water on the climb. I hadn’t planned on getting water at Clingmans dome as it meant a 0.5 mile steep descent to the trail parking lot, and then a return to the trail via a paved path to the summit. I called my crew and notified them of my trail plan change. In David’s FKT report, he mentioned that he saw his crew at Clingmans as well. I’m not sure if he took the bypass trail or the paved path both ways. Semantics maybe, but I didn't want to skip anything. I told Stephanie, (my crew), I wasn’t excited about this add-on in mileage but I was going to do it because I needed water, and I was ready for a long day in the mountains. She was having car problems however and she couldn’t make it to Clingmans to get me water. When I reached the main parking area, there was no water, only large crowds and hot exposed sun.

The Clingmans Dome debacle added about 20 minutes of wasted time, and I still had no water. After getting back on the trail I eventually found water at a glorious raging trail-side spring. I should have treated it first, but I just filled up and guzzled! I then treated the remainder. It was deliciously crystal clear, cold and refreshing and as far as untreated water goes, this was as safe as it gets. Low risk.

In the descent of Clingmans Dome, my legs and body felt like they had more than 42 miles on them but I was really excited for the remainder of the journey. I was enjoying a bluebird day in the mountains. The climbing was taking a toll, but I was still on pace, and after a big climb out of Newfound Gap, I could then cruise more downhill stretches, and my downhill legs felt rock solid.

That wouldn’t happen though.

Upon reaching Newfound Gap a situation unfolded. I learned Stephanie’s car had blown the turbo. The check engine light was on and she barely made it to Newfound Gap. She’d press the gas, the engine would rev… but nothing. No power to the wheels. Cars climbing the road behind her grew impatient. Stephanie tried her hardest while waiting for me at Newfound Gap to find a vehicle to meet me at the finish, she even offered to get a taxi or an Uber. I informed her this was greatly appreciated but unrealistic, if not impossible. We weren’t in a large metropolitan area. The AT leaves the park and the route finished at a VERY obscure location without cell service in the middle of nowhere on a mountain road. I didn’t know my exact finishing time. I didn’t want to bank on these unknowns, and even if these things were possible, I definitely wasn’t going to leave my crew stranded while I went for a run! We had to find a way to get her car to a shop and get ourselves to a rental car center which wasn’t closed on a Saturday. How the hell were we going to get home?!

We made it to the Knoxville airport after some masterful logistical finagling and got a car. En route to the airport Hilton I tried to balance the mild taste of defeat, with the feeling of success that came with just showing up and making the attempt at all. It was a great run overall and a good learning experience for next time around. I made plans for this run to include backups and safeties, but with no car it was just futile. Her car is pretty new with only 40k miles, so no regrets on my part. It was just unforeseen...but so goes life! It was a rewarding long day in the mountains, in which I attempted a daunting run. It was topped off with a salmon dinner and a cold beer at the Hilton. Not too bad a day really.

Below are a few additional pictures...

Thunderhead Mountain.

15 Hours of fuel!

How nice of my toenails to fall off the day before the run! No worries about nail-bed pain!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dark Sky 50 Race Report

Have you ever heard how loud a Turkey can be when you startle it?!

Greenery was a blur as I let my legs fly out in front of me down the rocky and steep descent. Mud would splash with each touchdown and my eyes would quickly dart to the next safe place to let my foot land as I flew down the mountainside nearly airborne in the misty mountain morning. I was 20 miles into the inaugural Dark Sky 50 held at Pickett State Park in the Big South Fork, TN. “Gobble! Gobble!” Flap! Flap! Flap! Making my way around a blind corner I startled a turkey and it took flight to avoid collision in a mess of guttural sounds and feathers flying. As my eyes moved to where my foot was about to land I noticed a tiny chick directly in the path of my front foot in mid-air stride. I somehow pulled that foot up defying gravity and did a jump step with the opposing foot and managed to miss the baby chick.

I drove down the night before the race after working a pretty crazy shift at the Urgent Care Center. Rain was patchy on the drive down and occasional rays of the setting sun would highlight the water vapor rising from the rolling lush green hills in southeastern Kentucky. The forecast for race day looked comfortable with a high in the 70’s and plenty of sunny blue skies after inches of rain fell the previous day.

The name “Dark Sky 50” comes from the recognition of the races location as a certified “Dark Sky” area meaning it’s so remote that it’s ideal for stargazing. There are only 37 certified Dark Sky locations in the world. Being so remote, this meant I had to break one of my pre-race rules of not confusing camping and racing… I always try to sleep in a hotel prior to a race, but this location was just too perfect as the campground was within minutes of the start, and there were no hotels nearby. There are cabins onsite for rental but I planned on packing up right after the race to get home to my 8 week old son. The skies were still clearing when I arrived so I wasn’t gifted the view of the stars that evening but… maybe next year.

I started training seriously again 12 weeks ago after taking off for nearly a year to regroup after a solid 10 years of pretty frequent racing. I still ran often during this time but didn’t put much focus on high mileage with the exception of running the Grindstone 100 in October just to get my Hardrock qualifier. The time off provided a lot of much needed clarity and the passion is back. When I started training again what really pushed and motivated me was the prospect of a road marathon PR as it’s a great indicator of aerobic strength. There is a marathon next weekend I was shooting for but 13 weeks just wasn’t enough time to get into sub 2:40 shape. So, a month ago I decided to race Dark Sky 50 in lieu of the road marathon as it was more in my wheelhouse and it would give me more time to get into marathon shape. While training for Dark Sky, I didn’t do any trail runs over 15 miles. All of my 20 mile runs were faster road runs. I didn’t do anything over 3 hours. Training resembled marathon training. I ran a long run each week of 20-22 miles and did mile repeats each week and tempo/threshold runs on the road of 7-16 miles. This was an interesting way to train for a surprisingly technical and long trail 50 miler, (er...52 mi.) but I knew I needed aerobic power more than anything. I had plenty of trail experience in the bank and needed to grow the aerobic engine back to where it was.

I’m going to get on my soapbox for a moment… When I take on a new client as a running coach they often say one thing they want to do is build their aerobic engine, burning more fat as fuel (to increase their lactate threshold.) Many runners want this and then get misled into believing philosophy over science and some buy into this keto adaptation fad. Speedwork and higher intensity workouts create the physiological stimulus to spur mitochondrial growth and development, it’s not about fat intake. This allows you to operate closer to maximum intensity for longer periods of time, and this is what forces your body to burn more fat as fuel, raising your lactate threshold.  Sure, you can eat mostly fat and survive, but you’re probably not going to meet your potential. Alas, I’ll spare the novel on that for now and get back to the race…

The course circumnavigated the wild and scenic Sheltowee Trace and John Muir Trail, (not to be confused with the JMT in California.) This provided many good views as we danced along cliff lines and outcroppings high above the Cumberland River. We crossed under several impressive natural arches formed in Sandstone and darted around and under some magnificent overhanging rock shelters.

Aid stations were about every 4-8 miles and were well stocked with tons of standard ultra fare and plenty of Huma gels. I raced this race solo with no crew and although gels were available at Aid Stations, I stuck to my stinger products and my own nutrition for the most part just because that way I knew what calories were available and I wasn’t leaving anything to chance. I did try out a few Huma Gels along the way and they were pretty tasty and went down well.

My two week pre-race taper provided plenty of energy come race morning. Although the week leading up to the race was stressful outside of running, it all worked out on race morning. In the opening miles I was surprised to find myself leading from the first step. There were some solid runners there! The first 15 miles was spent chatting with Tommy Doias about the Pacific Crest Trail and various other running and life ongoings and it was nice to pass the miles with such an easy flow of conversation. Tommy and I chatted about directing races as he has experience with some 100 mile events, directing them and winning them too! (The marathon I direct, The Backside Trail Marathon, was two weeks and I’m just now decompressing from it!) He also told me about he and his daughter doing her first half marathon together. I thought about how awesome it would be to do a race with Denali someday! Fingers crossed… I think she’s going to be a runner. She told me last week after I asked her if she wanted to learn a musical instrument, ”Daddy, you know I’m not patient enough to learn a musical instrument! I’m going to run like you, (because I’m faster than you), and play ice hockey like Mommy.” She’s a nut.

Directly behind us was the highly respected Greg Armstrong. Greg is a beast at the 100 mile distance and routinely clocks 100 mile splits in the 15 hour range and also owns the course record at the Vol State 500k race across tennessee. Greg has too many 100 mile and 24 hour wins to list! His feat at Vol State is the stuff of legend.

I was really impressed that this was the inaugural event of the Dark Sky 50. The course was marked flawlessly and the aid stations were spot on. Beth and crew at Nashville Running deserve some accolades for putting together a top notch event.

You never know what to expect going into a new course. I thought on an easy mountain course I could’ve knocked out a 7:00 50 mile split. (This was based on the posted elevation and course descriptions compared to other 50’s I’ve done with similar posted elevations. My LBL 50 PR was a 6:25 with several other times close to that. Dark Sky was posted at 5k’ climbing compared to 4k’ at LBL. Winning times from the technical and rocky Iron Mtn 50 with 9k’ climbing where it’s usually 90 degrees are just under 7:30)  Ha! This course was HARD! And Long.  Much harder than anticipated. It’s not that the climbs were huge. The course just held a lot of blowdowns and creek crossings and really rocky/muddy double-track along with small little hitches to constantly eat the flow of speed and continuity. The storms from the previous day compounded this. It’s a great course and I recommend it highly… It’s just not a fast course, even by mountain standards. Perhaps less mud/standing water would make a huge difference.

My 8:56 was a far cry from what I thought I’d finish in, but I was still running the climbs and felt good at the end. At the Aid Station with 6.2 miles to go I heard I was opening up a lead on Tommy in second place and I knew I was pretty locked in for the win barring catastrophe. I chilled and rolled in, just trying to break 9:00 on the clock. Luckily there were plenty of fire roads in the closing 6 miles to finally get to run unobstructed. It was a great ending to a gorgeous day in the mountains! The finishers award was some sweet hardware I’d been dreaming about all day and I was stoked to be the proud owner of such a gorgeous piece of art!

The Dark Sky 50; The Race I Almost Killed A Turkey Chick.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Louisville Lovin' The Hills 2016 50k. 10 years of Ultrarunning.

In 2006 after moving back to Louisville from the White Mountains in NH I began to trail run. After living in the White Mountains and hiking the Appalachian Trail in its entirety, trail running on Kentucky's run-able trails enticed me more than hiking here in the Midwest as trail running gave me something to focus on. Its a dance with the terrain where one is constantly engaged, navigating roots, rocks, ridgelines and obstacles. Upon moving back to Kentucky I missed all day hikes in the Whites but my time was also more crunched. I could cover 24 miles and climb 6000'  at Jefferson Memorial Forest in 4 hours and still tend to a busy day of work and classes.

The first fall Kara and I were in Kentucky I signed up for the Kentucky Ultra Series. This was a series of races that included a marathon at Otter Creek in December, a 50k at Jefferson Memorial Forest in February, and a 50 mile run in March at Land Between the Lakes. Trail Running was exploding and it was the era of Krupicka and dirtbag running and the whole scene had me on fire to spend as much time on trails as possible honing the craft. Whenever I could I put my nose in a book or got online and studied nutrition, form, heart rate, injury prevention, etc. I wanted to truly meet my potential.

Louisville Lovin' the Hills 50K is a badass race. I can't think of any other 50k courses that boast over 6000' of climbing. It's my dream course; raw, powerful, brutal, steep climbs and descents, technical.
I remember the earliest years out there. On the Siltstone out and back seeing guys like Eric Grossman and Russ Goodman charging back still looking strong after all those miles. I'll never forget those images of the early years and the feeling of "wanting to be them" one day.

Not only is Louisville Lovin' the Hills my hometown race but it was my first Ultra. It's become a family. Todd and Cynthia heady have made the race an annual homecoming of sorts and I love them both. They are both genuinely awesome people who put on a great run. Hanging out after the race and catching up with everyone as we dine on a smorgasbord of  delicious eats is what it's all about.

In the 10 years since that first experience there have been a lot of highs and not many lows. It's kept me fueled. It's become a system, a ritual, a science. January is high mileage and high intensity on trails to prep for LLTH. One week of easy recovery miles post LLTH and then it's time to maintain mileage and intensity the rest of February for LBL 50 Mile in March which is a great race in it's own right full of strong community, tough competition and great people.

This January's routine would need to vary slightly from my normal schedule. I'd need to cut mileage a little to allow for recovery from a strong 100k I raced on January 2. I kept my mileage low in December to make sure I came out of The Pistol fresh and planned on hitting it hard in January.

My mileage in January was still much lower than normal with some weeks as much as half of normal. In the past I've run close to 100 trail miles weekly in January, but this month I was having trouble finding the time to get in 60 miles weekly due to a busy schedule and lots of snow mid-month. My body fat percentage stayed the same (4.5%-5%), but I added few pounds of muscle from doing squats and some extra weight routines at the gym to stay injury free. Regardless, I kept my diet up and ate a lot and fueled appropriately. I wasn't getting in high mileage, but the quality was spot on, with appropriate intensity on the climbs, and I got some good training in the snow.

The week before the race I found my motivation waning. I was completely exhausted and stressed from pushing to accomplish everything that my "life" requires. Running was strong and going well, but I felt I was barely treading water in regards to my other priorities. Motivation can be a bitch. I need to remind myself sometimes that all of my stress is SELF-IMPOSED and honestly for the most part I don't have to do most of what I'm stressing about.  Half of the balls I'm juggling can just be dropped. I have to remind myself Chill the F out and focus on real priorities and learn to put some things on the back burner, My real priorities are my kiddo, family, nursing and being a running coach, etc. Music is a fun hobby, not a job, and I shouldn't stress so much about practice. Occasionally I need to let go. One day off won't kill me. I don't need to be "on" 24/7. I'm working hard on some things I'm excited about but I can't do everything at once. This is a simple rule in goal setting. To reach a goal, distractions are detrimental, cut the fat and focus on the task. There is always a cost of pushing, of burning the candle at all ends. Downtime is needed. Stress is incredibly detrimental to performance as it hinders drive. When I push hard and take on too much, I tend to live inside my head and become vacant to the people around me because I'm constantly thinking about what I need to do next. That's not cool and its not healthy. Remember...it's all about maximizing our potential. Try to juggle too much and ALL the balls drop.

The days immediately before the race I found complete salvation. I didn't check my phone all day and I didn't go anywhere. I learned to LET GO; to let go of the need to control every moment and constantly be pushing, be productive, be working towards a goal. I refocused and took care of my real priorities. I spent an extra day with my daughter. Instead of spending two hours shuttling her to grandmothers, I hung out with her, and ran a little less that day. I simplified. I tried to be present in the moment at my job nursing and not worry about what else I could be doing. The result? Peace. Happiness. Rejuvenation. On Friday I took my daughter to school close by, and then came home to a quiet house. I was able to decompress finally. I stopped being forward thinking and was able to just BE. I felt vigor. I felt energized. I was in the moment and finally free of myself. Shutting it all off put the ball in my court. By mid-day Friday I was truly excited to be free of the self-imposed shit I had been surrounding myself with. By letting go of control ironically I was back in control.

Race morning I started with passion inside. It was cold and I felt free and alive in the moment, the bitter cold air stinging my exposed flesh made me feel invigorated. I wanted to destroy myself out on the course...raw, brutal, physical. I felt GOOD.

I found myself in the early miles in the company of good friends Jeremy Brown, Ben Shirrell and another gent I'm not sure I know. It was nice camaraderie and these dude are solid are trails. I think Ben Shirrell could be a fantastic trail runner some day soon. He ran with a solid game plan and paced perfectly.

I was slightly relieved and somewhat disappointed there were no other 50k guys around me in the early miles. I was pushing the climbs and helping to set pace for the 15 mile guys and I knew from the start it would be a strong day in the hills.

Around mile 7 I found myself alone out in front with no other 15 mile guys around. Time trial efforts tend to work well enough for me. I had confidence I could push myself pretty hard without the motivating force of others on my tail or out in front, but I knew it would be a struggle to beat times of years past with the great battles that have occurred on the trails. It was different than in previous years since I was in front from the start.

I thought of LLTH's of past and runs I did with Grossman once I'd finally gotten a little faster. One of the more memorable LLTH's was with Eric where it came down to the final climb on the course and only a minute separated us...for me it was pretty epic. He trailed me the whole run back on Siltstone, staying right on my heals. I played my cards right trying to grind him out over the long haul to take him out in the closing miles, but he pushed hard and passed me on the last climb. At UROC 100k several months prior I had passed him on the final climb. It was very cool to be cat and mousing with this guy I respected from the time I started running. Little did I know back then we'd share some of my fondest memories together like the Tour de Virginia running 600 miles on the Appalachian Trail in VA in 108 degree weather.

I thought about just last year in which Matt Hoyes led all the way into Scotts gap and I wondered if he would hold pace and get his LLTH win. He'd be running so strong all year and finally broke into an impressive 2:30's marathon PR. I finally caught him at Scotts Gap and  we shared some miles together in and I passed him. I spent the last 6 miles out in front pushing my hardest and as much as I didn't want to check my shoulder I did occasionally to see if I saw him on any approaching ridgelines. Matt is a new dad, so congrats to him!

I kept memories alive the whole run. Memories of seeing Scott Breeden come in as a youngster many years ago and now grow up in the sport and dominate.

I felt good the whole time. Nutrition was perfect and the body held up well. I ran out on Siltstone in under 60 minutes which is always my benchmark for a solid run. The return trip on Siltstone ended up being about 62 minutes which I'll take. It was a solid finish.

On the final climb up from the welcome center I had the pleasure of seeing my family which was awesome. I'd had the joy of seeing my daughter Denali all day as she helped crew with Stephanie, but at the welcome center, I heard a cow bell ringing and noticed it was my niece Skylar, and then I noticed my parents and sister and nephew! It was very nice of them to make the trip out to see the finish of the race, and to see my 10 years in a row at LLTH end in defending my win from last year with a pretty solid run!

So... The details. (The course has changed and varied in mileage quite a bit over the years...so times are all relative, but it's still fun to see.)

2007-9th place 5:52
2008-4th place 5:20
2009-5th place 5:14
2010-4th place 5:41
2011-1st Place 5:09
2012-2nd Place 4:47
2013-2nd Place 4:37
2014-3rd Place 5:48
2015-1st Place 4:41
2016-1st Place 4:53

Many thanks to Cynthia for the special and thoughtful award! I'm looking forward to next yr.

2016 has been lucky so far!



Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tunnel Hill 100 wrap up and The Pistol 110K.

The Pistol 110K

Tunnel Hill 100 Mile

Tunnel Hill 100

Tunnel Hill 100 was last November. 

In preparation for "TH" I trained with more discipline than I had in quite some time. All of my weeks in October were around 100 miles, and I trained with great specificity to the course. September held a good ramp up to steady mileage. I felt pretty good the whole time training in fall and was very confident in my ability to finally run a Sub 15 hour hundred, which was my primary goal after half a year of recovery and rest essentially following a very strong two year stint prior. 

Race morning at the gun I took off and was pretty confident that I would be "running a PR today". I felt better than I had in a long time and I was fresher than I had been in years. After racing in nearly 75 ultras, (50 of which are on Ultrasignup), I know the difference in good form and bad and I felt like I had shown up in great shape. 

Around the 30 mile mark, I was holding onto my goal pace, but the pace grew more and more challenging. I knew that in a hundred, you can't force anything. You MUST work WITH your body, not against it.  In between miles 30 and 40 I began to fall apart mentally and I knew that physically I would crash and DNF if I tried to hold onto my goal pace. I knew I had to salvage my run, run at an easier pace, focus on nutrition, and work with my body to get the most out of my day. 

I cruised happily in for the most enjoyable 100 mile finish to date, but it wasn't what I wanted. 

Unlike like last year, this year I had no regrets. I swung for the moon in training, and put in a ton of volume and trained with a new format focusing on specificity. 

In retrospect. I needed more speedwork and time at threshold. Looking at the pyramid of performace, my top end needed refinement. Yes... Even in a 100 mile run. To run at my peak, I needed more speed and power work. Clearly, I felt great the whole run at the pace I eventually settled into after mile 40, but to run a PR I needed more. When I ran my previous PR of 15:27, I had more speed under my belt. 

It was incredible running alongside a client of mine, Kristen Roe, who won the overall female 100 mile run!

The Pistol 110K

The Pistol 110K was almost two weeks ago. 

After Tunnel Hill I felt pretty great and was running well again in two weeks. I started getting in some short runs in Punta Cana, enjoying the heat in the Domican Republic and typically sweated out the previous nights while getting in 5-10 milers at tempo pace. It was a great week and I actually got in some decent speed work.

In December I decided to run the Pistol 100K instead of my previous idea of shooting for a 50K Pr. I knew I didn't want to stress too much about training. I just kept my mileage moderate and only ran long one time, (which was over 25 miles. ) I ran about 20 miles on two occasions. Other than that, I did some time at threshold each week knowing I would benefit from it since I had a strong aerobic base from Tunnel Hill. Overall I wasn't planning any sort of a peak for The Pistol. I just wanted to race and bury myself in a shorter race. (Not 100 miles.)  Spring races were more important and I didn't want to burn out.

The month of December I felt GREAT. Every day I looked forward to short, fast, runs and my legs recovered well each day. The shorter volume meant I could spend more time coaching my runners and studying music, being with family, etc. 

Although my legs felt strong in December, the holidays wore me down. By race week, I was a complete mess emotionally and was vacant and hollow on race week. I was still looking forward to the race, but honestly, I was fried after the holidays. (I always am for this race.) 

This would be my 3rd Pistol in a row.

Race day skies were sunny and warmer than usual and didn't call for rain, ice, or snow. I took the lead at the gun, and ran by myself mostly until crossing the finish line in 1st place at just over 10 hours. 

I was hoping to run between 8 hours and 9 hours on the course. The week before the race the RD sent an email saying the course was 10% long, but since the course was laps I firgured I'd just focus on laps, not my Garmin. 

My absolute "A" goal was 8 hours 5 minutes which would have been the course record . I felt like 8:30 was more realistic considering my lack of specific training for the race and a lack of a peak. I thought the course would have been the same as last year though...and that's where I was very wrong in my forecasting of time goals. This year the 100 milers ran a course that was MUCH shorter than in previous years, and the 100K course was 69 miles. In the race directors emails he notified everyone of this and so I didn't care. What I didn't realize in forecasting my time goals was that it was NOT the same course as previous year in distance, even though much of it is the same.The course was WAY longer than last year. After the first lap, I knew my time goals were unrealistic, and so I paced myself for 70 miles instead of 62. I enjoyed the run and pushed hard. 

Being that it was at least 7-ish miles over the distance from last year I was no where near my time goal but I didn't care. I was running OK and focusing on laps. I hit 62 miles on my Garmin in 8:30. I could see my competition, and I knew I didn't need to push hard on the last lap, so I cruised in for the win. 

It was once again amazing to witness a good friend and client, Maddy Blue crush the course and have the run of her life, placing 3rd overall even among the guys! 

When I finished the RD and staff saw my Garmin and others came in with similar results. They decided to notify the 100 mile runners to cancel their last lap and that would take 10 miles off the distance. This was changed mid-race. I'm sure a lot of folks were happy about this. Will DID tell everyone that the course was long. What he ended up doing was officially calling the 100K a 110K, so I ended up with a PR after all. 

It was nice hanging out after the race and being with friends. I'll definitely be back at the Pistol for more post holiday fun next year. for now, I'll be focusing on Lovin' The Hills 50K in February. This year will mark my 10th in a row, and my 10th anniversary of running Ultras.